So what constitutes a long workout?
For everyone except the complete couch potato, a long workout would be any workout that…
A) has extremely great potential to almost completely deplete your body’s carbohydrate reserves, which in most cases is about 2+ hours;
B) a workout that may not be quite as long as 2 hours, but is incredibly physically demanding for at least longer than an hour, such as a tough day at the gym doing the Hardest Workout Ever Invented;
C) any physical effort that simply leaves with the feeling of having done something totally epic (and yes, “totally epic” is an acceptable, peer-reviewed term in scientific literature…I think).
So if you got exhausted just reading A, B or C, then it may be a good idea to skip this article, because if you use the nutrition tricks I’m about to give you, you’ll probably just take on unnecessary calories (although “sipping” small amounts of sugar during short, intense workouts may possibly give you some benefit for enhanced exercise performance).
OK, here we go:
Long Workout Fueling Trick #10: If you’re using gels, make sure you choose the kind of gels that have amino acids in them.
Same for sports drink. Anytime you go long, and especially over 3 hours, higher blood levels of amino acids will keep you from cannibalizing muscle, and also reduce your rating of perceived exertion. GU Roctane is an example of a gel that has amino acids, Carbo Pro now has a sports drink with amino acids in it, and other drinks with protein include Infinit, Perpetuum and First Endurance.
Long Workout Fueling Trick #9: Three to four times per month, try to include semi-long or long workouts that are minimally fueled.
In the article 4 Crucial Reasons To Think Twice About Eating Carbohydrates Before A Workout, I talk about how this can train the body to utilize more fats as a fuel and also to spare carbohydrate use, both of which can be useful during a long workout. If you’re training for a long race, such as Ironman, just don’t do all your long workouts in this state, since you do want to train your gut to be able to absorb the number of calories you plan on eating during the race.
Long Workout Fueling Trick #8: When it counts, such as in race or competition, eat early and eat often.
During the bike leg of an Ironman triathlon, I take in 350-450 calories per hour. Ironman legend Mark Allen was able to train his gut to absorb up to 600 calories per hour. So while avoiding voluminous carbohydrate intake during some training sessions can have advantages, it’s the last thing you want to do on a day that is going to last close to double-digit hours.
Long Workout Fueling Trick #7: Take amino acids about 30-60 minutes before you head out.
Another amino acids trick, which I talk about in detail in another article, is to consume some kind of amino acid capsule or powder before you even head into the exercise routine.Sure a piece of chicken has amino acids in it, but will take far longer to digest than an amino acid supplement (like MAP, for example), which you can pop right before you head out for your long workout.
Long Workout Fueling Trick #6: Try fats.
Medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), such as what you would get from coconut oil, whole coconut milk, or coconut flakes, can actually provide more rapid and readily available sources of energy than other types of fat. If you overdo consumption of MCT’s, you can get stomach distress, but before a long workout or long day of exercise, chomping down a few tablespoons of coconut oil, guzzling a tall glass of whole coconut milk, or grabbing a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes can keep you going. Cocochia flakes (coconut + chia seeds) are also a tasty option, and what I use on long workout days.